Make the Most of Your Massage

This is kind of embarrassing to admit, but I got a massage for no reason at all this morning. The boys were at school for two hours, and I spent half of it lying on a table — I know, spoiled, right? In my defense, I had a gift certificate from my birthday a year and a half ago, and my shoulders were killing me from back to school stress. Of course, I have a ton of guilt but here’s the worst part … I don’t feel any better. In fact, I may feel worse! I think I did everything wrong. Next time you treat yourself to a swedish or deep tissue, make the most of it.

1. Schedule in advance. Looking forward to the massage is part of the fun. Book a therapist you know does a good job, and you’ll reap more benefit. Get recommendations from friends if the spa is new to you.

2. Make a to-do list the night before. Writing down everything you have to accomplish will settle your mind and keep your thoughts from racing through the treatment. Focus on gratitude. In the grand scheme of life, you are pretty fortunate to be receiving the luxury of a massage. When your thoughts start to wander, silently list all the things you are grateful for.

3. Prep. Take a warm shower, shave and stretch. Take off all your jewelry at home. Wear comfortable clothes. Call your emergency contact and make sure he or she will be available in case your kids’ school calls. The chances of this happening during the one hour you have your phone on silent is slim, but it will give you peace of mind.

4. Give yourself enough time — before and after. The massage should be part of a relaxing experience. If you are racing to get there on time and/or have a meeting scheduled for immediately following, you are trying to cram too much relaxing into 50 minutes. It won’t work, and you’ll likely end up feeling worse — and guilty for having spent the time and money.

5. Make your needs clear. Do you want more pressure, less pressure? Do you have a specific area you’d like worked on? Are you too cold, too hot? Etc. I know for lots of us, speaking up is difficult, and we want the therapist to like us, so we don’t complain. Massage therapists will tell you though, they want you to have a good experience and they like to hear from you. They can’t read your mind.

Now, I want a redo! How long until my birthday??

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An Apple a Day

Apples have gone from being the forbidden fruit to being the forgotten fruit. Berries, kiwi and pomegranate are sexier. No one puts antioxidants and apples together in the same sentence. Unlike gogi berries, you can find them anywhere. But, don’t let their availability cause you to overlook them. Lest we forget about the benefits from this tried and true, loyal fruit, here are some fun, practical and healthy reasons to stock up on some Galas and Macintoshes.

- You can pick them yourself. Apple picking is one of my favorite things to do with the kids in the Fall. Plan it now, because otherwise the orchards will be bare by the time you get there.

- Apples last a really long time. How many berries and peaches have you had to toss because the went bad before they were eaten? Apples add a beautiful splash of color to your kitchen, and they are survivors.

- They are also relatively inexpensive. One apple costs about 70 cents and nutritionally, counts as a cup of fruit.

- Apples are high in fiber, have lots of vitamin C, and YES … they do have antioxidants.

- Studies have shown apples are beneficial in fighting cardiovascular disease and lowering cholesterol.

- AND, here’s a good one … apples have been proven to help you lose weight. They are a filling, healthy snack without a lot of calories, and can be a great part of any moderate weight loss plan.

So, when you take your kids apple picking next weekend, let them load up. Bring home more than you can carry and share your harvest with friends and neighbors. And, of course, you’ll have to make at least one apple pie. Hopefully after reading this, you’ll feel less guilty about an ice cream topped indulgence.

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Are You Drinking Too Much?

I will not name names, but I’ve heard from many of you in the past couple of weeks, “I’ve got to stop drinking.” Seems a fun, boozy summer was had by all, and now we are trying to figure out how to put on the brakes in the midst of the stressful back to school time. I haven’t been too successful, not that I’ve tried very hard. I watched When a Man Loves a Woman last night with a great bottle of Pinot Noir. Perhaps I should’ve seen some of myself in Meg Ryan’s alcoholic character, but truthfully, all I could think was, “Wow. Detox looks hard,” and “Andy Garcia is really cute.” Yes, I have love handles I am affectionately calling Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio, but caloric intake aside, am I drinking too much? Now with carpooling and homework, the fun will naturally curb itself, but I still plan on enjoying an occasional weekday unwind in a glass. How about you?

When should you be concerned?

Doctors are taught the CAGE questionnaire. You can try it on yourself.

C – Have you ever felt the need to Cut down on your drinking?

A – Have you been Annoyed by people criticizing your driving?

G – Do you ever feel Guilty about drinking?

E – Have you ever felt the need for an Eye Opener?

Answering yes to two or more of these questions, is indicative of a potential problem. Speak with people who truly love you and don’t just love partying with you. Ask if they think you need to stop drinking.Try cutting down, or cutting out alcohol completely for a couple of weeks. If you have a hard time doing so, speak with your doctor.

Remember, moderation is a wonderful thing. The healthiest, happiest people are those who can find and maintain balance in all things … drinking alcohol included.

Posted in Prevention, Psych | Leave a comment

Bee Stings

I went out to the Northfork of Long Island this week to get away from my kids and to taste some wine — two of my favorite things. It was an idyllic 24 hours — good food, spectacular weather, breathtaking views, and wine that … well, there was wine. (If you drank a lot of it, it started tasting better.) When we got in the car to drive home, one of my all-time favorite songs was on the radio — Closer to Fine by the Indigo Girls. I felt like I was in an awesome movie. And then, BAM! Gunshot to the shoulder. Well, it was actually only a bee sting, but I reacted as if I had a bullet wound. I screamed so loud Larry actually drove off the road. I may have overreacted a little bit, but in my defense, it really, really, really hurt. And, it kept hurting for about 8 hours. My whole back felt like it was burning, and I didn’t feel quite right in the head — which I refuse to blame on the wine. I have a new appreciation for bee stings.

This is my reaction:

- In the U.S. about 100 people die each year from bee stings.

- About 2 million Americans are allergic to bees. This means about 3% of children who are stung will have an allergic reaction.

- Most people will just experience pain and some swelling at the site of the sting for a few hours. Those who are allergic will have more severe symptoms including:
- hives over a large part of the body
- itching and severe swelling
- dizziness, nausea and stomach cramps
- swelling of the face, tongue and throat
- difficulty breathing and wheezing

- If symptoms include any of the above, or are worsening, seek medical attention completely.

- For general symptoms of pain and swelling, try ice and hydrocortisone at the site. Take ibuprofen for pain and an antihistamine (like Benadryl) for the local reaction. Keep the area elevated and like me, use it as an excuse not to make dinner.
Most people will not know they are allergic to bee stings until they are actually stung. Adults are more at risk for an anaphylactic attack than children. If you’ve had a reaction to a bee sting before, it is more likely you will have a severe reaction in the future. You should carry an Epipen, especially during outdoor activities.

Avoid bee stings in the first place:

- Don’t swat at bees or run from them.

- Don’t wear strong scents around bees.

- Don’t drink from an open can that’s been sitting unattended, as they attract bees.

- Drive with your windows closed (something I needed to know YESTERDAY!)

Bottom line, allergic reactions can be fatal, but with the proper medicine, they are treatable. Don’t wait and watch. If you are concerned, call 911 as soon as possible.

 

Posted in Allergies, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Depression — How to Spot It

In the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide, the chatter is all about depression and mental illness. Newscasters sounded baffled as they delivered the sad news. How could the man who brought Mork from Ork and Mrs. Doubtfire to light, be sad enough to kill himself? He made millions laugh, but couldn’t do the same for himself. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s exactly what makes mental illness so tragic. How many people are now wondering if they should have seen it coming, if there was something they could’ve done or said to stop it? There are some warning signs, and while every person at risk for suicide may not present with them, they are important to know.

First, some facts:

- There are over 32,000 suicides in the U.S. each year.  There are three attempts by females to every one attempt by males. But, there are four times as many successful suicides by men.

- About 230,000 people currently suffer from depression.

- 80% of those who seek treatment for depression are treated successfully.

- 15% of those with clinical depression die by suicide.

Chances are, you know someone who is depressed. While, it is sometimes impossible to help someone who is contemplating suicide, you do want to be able to recognize the symptoms in the hopes of being able to intervene.

According to SAVE.org, the warning signs in people who are in danger of committing suicide are:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun.
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Withdrawn or feeling isolated.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.
Additional warning signs:
  • Preoccupation with death.
  • Suddenly happier, calmer.
  • Loss of interest in things one cares about.
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye.
  • Making arrangements; setting one’s affairs in order.
  • Giving things away, such as prized possessions.

If you fear someone you know may be on the verge of a suicide attempt, the best thing you can do is get them to seek professional help. Call 911 if you need to.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800.273.TALK (8255)

 

 

 

Posted in Depression, Psych, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Can You Predict Your Child’s Height?

I wish I were taller, not just because I hate having to hem all my pants and often can’t reach the top shelf, but because it would make my kids taller. Sounds kind of superficial and “Dance Mom” of me, but studies have shown taller people are happier and more successful. Isn’t that so unfair? Interestingly, the difference doesn’t seem to be how tall someone is as an adult, but rather, how tall they are as a teenager. Theoretically, the confidence gained during those formative years from looking down at everyone else, translates into increased intelligence and better social skills. Sounds like a nice perk to an already desirable physical trait. Wondering if your kids will enjoy this kind of vertical advantage?

You can make a pretty reasonable guess based on the parental heights. Of course, there are  outliers, so nothing is set in stone, but here’s how:

– Add the mother’s height and father’s height in inches.

– Add five inches for boys and subtract five inches for girls.

– Divide by two.

The majority of kids will reach a height within four inches of this educated guestimation. So, while there is still a slight chance your son can play for the NBA even if you are of average height, for the most part, the only way to have offspring significantly taller than yourself is to procreate with someone you look up to.

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Melasma — Those Ugly Brown Spots on Your Face

Just when I think my skin has evened out, here comes the sun! One day into the warmer weather, and I look like an old banana.

Years ago, a little sun made me look healthier and younger, now the opposite seems to be true. Ever since the two youngest monkeys were born, I have a big brown dot on my cheek and, when I’m not careful in the sun, a dark line on my upper lip.

Next to wrinkles, nothing makes you look your age (or worse) than brown spots and a false mustache.

Why does it happen?

The color making cells (melanocytes) in the skin overreact. It occurs much more often in women (shocker … why would men have to deal with anything else???) and in darker skinned people.

When does it happen?

Sun exposure makes it worse.

It can “just” happen, but many women notice worsening during pregnancy. During this blessed time, it gets a special name, chloasma: the mask of pregnancy. Just when you thought you couldn’t feel worse …

Birth control pills and hormonal replacement may also cause the melanocytes to darken.

What to do

– Wear sunscreen every day. I wear SPF 30 religiously on my face, but when I’m going to be in the bright sun midday, I add an SPF 55 to the dark spots. This seems to help balance out the shading a bit.

– Choose gentle skin products, as anything that irritates the skin, can make the melasma worse.

– Avoid waxing these areas.

– Skin bleaching creams especially those prescribed by a physician, can help a lot. Often a second cream will be prescribed to enhance the effectiveness of the skin lightener.

– Dermatologists and/or cosmetologists can perform procedures like chemical peels and microdermabrasion.

Remember, there is always risk for the melasma to return, so even when you aren’t seeing those spots and smudges, focus on sun protection and avoidance of any triggers.

This is me … it is early and I have no makeup on. Be kind. I know, I know — I’m making an appointment now.

 

Posted in Dermatology | Leave a comment

Summer Reading – Tips & Tactics

“Lorelei, how are you doing with your summer reading?”

“Great, mom! I’ll see you later.”

Later: “Lorelei, when you said you were doing great with your summer reading, can you please be more specific?”

“I’m up to page 7 in my first book!”

Oh boy, here we go again. We enter every summer with the best of intentions. We are going to read early and often. Not only are we going to bang out the reading lists, we are going to impress our next year’s teacher with a litany of masterpieces read. Then, in the blink of an eye, it is September. Reading logs, when we can find them, are stained, wrinkled, and pathetically scant. The panic (their’s) and the guilt (mine) start to set in. One year, Madelyn spent the last two days of summer under her covers, reading books with a flashlight through red-rimmed, tear filled eyes. All the while I was saying, I told you so. But, the truth is, I’m not really sure I did tell her so. I probably threw out a couple, “You should bring your book to the beach,” and “Why don’t you turn off the TV and pick up a book?” but I didn’t truly help her stay on track to meet her summer goals. I have learned from my mistakes.

1. You CANNOT, I repeat, CANNOT wait until August to start thinking about summer reading. Even if one month were enough time, August is filled with vacations, social events and angst as we all try to soak in the last rays of sun. You may be way too busy to pester your kids by then.

2. Put the reading logs in a visible, accessible place. If possible, leave them on the fridge or a bulletin board. If you have more than one child in school, there’s nothing like a little sibling rivalry to light the fire under a lazy butt. More importantly, you’ll be able to see exactly where your kids stand in terms of reaching their goals.

3. Book choice is everything. Help your kids pick the right books for them. Stick to their reading level and find stories to which they can relate. Don’t assume the books you loved or an older child loved will be a favorite of another child. When my kids say, “I don’t like to read,” after I shake a fist at the heavens for giving me a child who would say such a stupid thing, I respond. “Saying you don’t like to read is like saying you don’t like to eat. We all have different tastes. You just have to find the right book for you.” Ask friends who share similar interests, librarians and teachers for suggestions. And, remember, it is O.K. to stop a book midway. I’ve made the mistake (many times because I am a slow learner) of telling my kids to power through a book they hate just so they can add it to the list. In the time it took them to finish the book they dreaded, they could have read two they loved.

4. Read with them. My kids love when I pick up the same book they are reading. Whether you have a high school student tackling Great Expectations or a 2nd grader reading Super Fudge, all kids, all people, love to share their impressions and thoughts about a book with someone literally on the same page. Encourage an environment which supports summer reading. Leave books on tables, talk about books, read where your kids can see you.

5. As a last resort, and one I’ve been forced to use, set specific reading goals. Yes, this will then feel more like a job for you and homework for them, but the reward will be simply getting it done. While I would love my children to relish in the joy of days relaxing with a great book, during some summers, with some kids, this has to be enough. The more they read, even begrudgingly, the better chance they will eventually come to appreciate the written word.

It is important to remember reading is the backbone of academic success. Having to read over the summer is not a punishment, no matter how you are feeling when you’d rather sip a cocktail than read a children’s book or yell at your kids. Don’t take your child’s side over their teacher’s. This will only give them an excuse to blow off what may possibly be their only academic summer stimulation. I know the madness that is the end of the school year still has your head spinning. The imprint on my forehead from the tire tracks on the Mack truck that is Spring parenting is just beginning to fade. The last thing I want to do is to resurrect my inner drill sergeant, but believe me, work on the reading now before it is too late and the beginning of the school year will thank you for it.

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